It is the pre-game responsibility of public address announcers to review the roster of the visiting team in search of any tricky names. The “H” in the last name of forward Jeff Hristovski ’06, they undoubtedly learn, is silent. It is necessary to know, since the announcers will usually have to say his name a lot.
So far this season, they have been uttering “Mills” and “Jensen” a great deal as well, the names of Hristovski’s linemates for much of the year, center Brad Mills ’07 and winger Christian Jensen ’06.
The trio has accounted for 47 percent of the team’s points this season, with Mills leading the way with 16, and has also scored 52 percent of Yale’s goals, of which Jensen has a team-high eight.
Captain Nick Shalek ’05 has seen firsthand how effective the three have been when given space to demonstrate their offensive prowess.
“[They are] three talented guys who are pretty creative,” Shalek said. “Christian’s great at getting in there and getting the puck and Mills is such a smart playmaker.”
Like Shalek, Mills said it is the trio’s creativity that has made them so successful.
“I feel like we were successful together because all three of us kind of have playmaker parts for our game,” Mills said. “So we really moved the puck well. Plus all three of us are a threat to score.”
Jensen has a lot more than the ability to grind in the corners for loose pucks, however. He has a habit of evoking “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from onlookers with blistering wristshots, like the one he whistled over the shoulder of Brown goalie Kevin Kliman in Providence this past November, and dazzling moves, like the fancy right-to-left deke he used to beat Brian Elliot of Wisconsin in a shootout Yale eventually lost New Year’s Eve.
“He’s got dangles,” teammates often say of Jensen, using the hockey neologism for the ability to outmaneuver lethargic opponents with deft stickwork. The stickhandling of Jensen, who keeps his hand-eye coordination sharp by doubling as a defenseman on the lacrosse team in the spring, has helped him become such an accomplished sniper. The diminutive winger has piled up 67 points in 79 career games.
Mills has followed up an impressive freshman season, after which he was named MVP among the Yale newcomers, with an explosion of offense in his sophomore campaign. With five goals and 11 assists, the six-foot, 200-pound Alberta-native is tied for ninth in points per game in the ECAC. A cerebral, two-way center who delivers hits as hard as his slapshots, Mills has emerged as, arguably, Yale’s best player.
“Mills was very experienced playing last year as a freshman, adjusting not necessarily to the level but the style [of college hockey],” head coach Tim Taylor said. “I expect as much out of him as top-level players in the junior class.”
Hristovski’s game is not easily described. Equal parts offense, defense, power and finesse, he has been productive in all three of his seasons at Yale.
“He sees the ice well,” Mills said when asked to describe Hristovski as a player. “He’s got a great shot. He’s very unselfish with the puck. He likes to be a setup guy as well as a shooter. And he’s good on faceoffs.”
So when Taylor recently split up the prolific triumvirate, it came as little surprise that the versatile Hristovski was the man to move.
Looking for more experience at center, a position with more defensive responsibilities than wing, Taylor bumped Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 to wing when he moved Hristovski to center.
With Joe Zappala ’06, last season’s team leader in goals with 18, moving to Mills’ and Jensen’s line, Yale now has two lines that are legitimate scoring threats.
“I think it gives our offense more weapons,” Mills said. “It spreads us out a bit.”